Major winter storm wallops central, eastern Canada

Commuters pass by a mural outside a sporting goods shop during a snowstorm in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

TORONTO (Reuters) - A winter storm dumped heavy snow and ice pellets on the most populated parts of Canada on Tuesday, closing schools and paralyzing transportation.

Environment Canada expected 15 to 25 centimeters (6 to 10 inches) of snow for Southern Ontario by Wednesday, with ice pellets and strong winds of up to 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) per hour, as well as possible freezing rain. The storm is expected to end on Wednesday.

Among the areas affected were Greater Toronto and Hamilton, the most populated metropolitan region in Canada with almost 6.5 million people, as well as Ottawa, Montreal and other regions, according to Environment Canada.

“We recommend that if (people) don’t have to go to work today that they stay home, and if they have to be on the roads, go slow...because the conditions are quite dangerous,” said Gerald Cheng, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

The Toronto District School Board, the country’s largest with nearly 300,000 students, closed all schools for the first time since 2011 because of the storm, and schools were shut in many other areas as well.

At Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, 32 percent of flights were canceled, according to spokeswoman Maria Ganogiannis.

The storm is inching toward eastern Canada, where up to 40 centimeters of snow is forecast for New Brunswick, Environment Canada’s Cheng said.

Reporting by Tyler Choi; Editing by Bernadette Baum